Monday, October 25, 2010
A Tale of Drowning in Free Beer and Corporate Treachery
It seems that a brewery, owned by Meux and Company, used to operate on the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street in London. It was located in the middle of a terribly crowded slum. The brewery was large though, and boasted some truly huge barrels. One was over 22 feet high. That's about two stories of porter! The batch in that particular barrel had been fermenting for almost 10 months and the metal bands holding the wooden staves together were beginning to show fatigue. One of them snapped, causing a chain reaction that sent debris flying into other barrels, exploding them too. Some people said they could hear the explosion from five miles away.
In the end, at least 7 people drowned and one died from alcohol poisoning. The area was horribly poor; some people decided to display the corpses of family members killed in the disaster for a small fee. One home hosted so many ghoulish onlookers that the floor caved in, plunging the thrill-seekers into a basement still filled with beer.
Still, it could have been worse. 100 years later, in Boston in 1919, a huge tank of molasses exploded, killing 21 people. Death by treacle is doubtlessly worse than death by beer.